Older mums often hear about the risks associated with having their babies later in life, but now a study is saying this also comes with some rather unique positives. According to a study published in the Population and Development Review, older mums are more likely to have children who are not only taller but smarter – and like most studies you can take the findings as you will.
By analysing 1.5 million Swedish men and women born between 1960 and 1991, the researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and the London School of Economics made some interesting discoveries. They found that children born to mothers who delayed childbirth up to age 40 or older tended to be taller, more educated, and performed better on standardised tests, compared to kids born to younger mothers.
To make the discovery, the researchers turned to the subject’s siblings born to the same parents (excluding twins and multiples). They then compared the mother’s age with other factors, like height, physical fitness, grades they got in high school, and their levels of education. They found the children born to the mum later in life tended to do better across the board, compared to the kids she gave birth to earlier on.
“By comparing siblings who grew up in the same family it was possible for us to pinpoint the importance of maternal age at the time of birth independent of the influence of other factors that might bias the results,” explained study author Kieron Barclay.
Benefits to being an older mum
While much is written about the risks of being an older mum to babies, like an increased chance of a baby having Down syndrome, the researchers believe their findings prove there are also some overwhelming positives to having babies later in life.
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“The benefits associated with being born in a later year outweigh the individual risk factors arising from being born to an older mother,” said lead researcher Mikko Myrskylä.
“We need to develop a different perspective on advanced maternal age. Expectant parents are typically well aware of the risks associated with late pregnancy, but they are less aware of the positive effects.”
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Why is this so?
As to why kids of older mums seem to do better and even grow taller, the researchers haven’t confirmed an exact reason for their findings, just yet. They seem to think the impact of improving health and social conditions that comes over time may have something to do with it, though.
If you, like me, are reading this with a grain of salt because you can also think of a friend who had a baby young who is now in school, towering over his peers and nailing it academically, then you may also be a little cynical of this study.
That said, this is still some very good news for older mums who might be sick of hearing about all the negatives associated with having babies later in life.